How sobering is the thought that as we enter a New Year, whether we want to or not. ready or not, we can’t stop time.
What will we face as we enter 2010, now a decade into the twenty-first century?
Change that undermines our Constitution and American Republic we must stand against.
Change in our churches that undermines our Biblical foundation, we must courageously resist.
Change that brings progress we should welcome. Change, just for the sake of change, we should question.
Like it or not, new events will unfold on a personal, national and world-wide level.
New choices and decisions will have to be made that we have never made before.
We will be faced with new temptations to compromise on moral issues and disobey God.
It is possible that new victories over sin will be experienced.
New opportunities and responsibilities may be thrust upon us.
New phases of our character will be developed.
New trials and disappointments will be thrust upon us which we have never faced before, for no Christian is exempt from them.
New sorrows may come upon us, but we sorrow not as the lost with uncontrollable and unrelenting grief. I Thess. 4:13
New friendships will be formed as we get to know and love strangers as friends,
New fresh mercies of God will be bestowed upon us every morning for the next 365 days. Lamentations 3:21-23 promises that, Expect them and watch for them and thank God for them daily throughout the year.
Changes will take place in our lives and perhaps in our church; changes that will impact us for the rest of our lives.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF CHANGE AS LONG AS GOD IS LEADING US.
For Israel. it was a change of leadership from Moses to Joshua, but God was still overseeing and in full control.
This year will be a year of growth, victory and blessing, or it will be a year of backsliding, defeat and misery. It’s our choice!
Most exciting of all, this may be the year Paul writes about in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 when all of us who are trusting Christ for salvation will be caught up to Heaven to meet the Lord and be with Him forever in sinless, glorified bodies.
God wants to do wonders in our midst. Joshua. 3:5 I’m not talking about cheap, empty, emotional experiences that give temporary highs. I’m talking about a church auditorium filled each Sunday morning and evening with men and women, boys and girls who love the Lord and are growing in Christ and making a godly impact for Christ on the people all around us.
We have a growing nucleus of such people here right now, including: children, teens, and early twenties who are excited about living for the Lord.
I envision a church and school, not hindered by lack of staff or finances who are ready and willing to do whatever God calls us to do.
How do you feel about God doing wonders in your church? What is your response? Does that excite you?
Let me let you in on a secret. It will probably involve change. Perhaps it may involve you sharing some of your responsibilities with others who are gifted and have the time and energy to accept new responsibilities. Perhaps it will involve you who are sitting on the sidelines getting involved.
HOW DID ISRAEL FACE CHANGE?
Many fear change and uncertainty? Let’s see how Israel faced change, as recorded in Joshus1:1-9
First, note the events leading up to it. In Numbers 13 twelve spies were sent out from Israel to check out the land and people of Canaan. Ten of the twelve brought back an evil report, insisting that the invasion of Canaan was too dangerous.
Two spies, Caleb and Joshua, brought back a good report that God was strong enough to conquer their enemies. The ten other spies brought back an evil report of pessimism and discouragement. They insisted that the enemies were too strong for them. Taking Palestine was impossible even though God had promised it to them.
FORTY WASTED YEARS
In Numbers 14:1-35, God pronounced Judgment on Israel for their unbelief. They were sentenced to wander in the wilderness for forty more years until the old generation was dead.
When we come to Deuteronomy 1:3-8; the forty wasted years of wandering in the wilderness have been served.. The older generation is dead, except for aged Caleb. It’s time to go up. Joshua is challenged in Joshua 3:4-5 to lead the people to victory in Canaan.
In the light of the fact that they had not passed this way before, how comforting is was to know and rest in the following promises.
CHRIST KNOWS THE WAY AND GOES BEFORE US.
The Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of God’s presence, would lead Israel on their wilderness journey to Canaan. So God’s presence leads us through life.
Joshua 3:4 & 5 explains the reason Israel needed to be led by the Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized God’s presence. They needed and we today need His presence, His leading and His direction because “we have not passed this way before”. Israel was to “sanctify themselves or separate themselves to God, for the next day God would do wonders among them.”
So Psalm 23 and John 10:4 teach us that the Good Shepherd goes before us, His sheep. As we go, God promises to do wonders among us.
FACING THE FUTURE
God goes before us guiding us into our futures. Thankfully, He does not show us our futures in advance. It we knew, we would fear to take another step; but because we do not know our futures, but only know that He is our Shepherd, we need not fear. We can fully trust Him with our lives and with our futures.
James 4:13-15 teaches us how to face the future and live each day. He starts by warning us be cautious about being dogmatic about our plans for the future. Our future is not totally under our control. It is under God’s control. “:Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow.”
Then he likens our life to a puff of steam coming from a tea kettle of boiling water. It’s here one moment and gone the next. Instead of speaking with dogmatism about our futures, we must understand that even as we make our plans, they are subject to change under the sovereign will of God who controls all circumstances in our lives.
We rest in the truth of Psalm 31:15 “My times are in Thy hands.” Though we don’t know our futures, we know He holds our future in His hands.
WE HAVE GOD’S PROMISE OF HIS PRESENCE
As the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence, was carried by priests, who led Israel in their journey to Canaan, so God leads His own by directing our circumstances, if we are surrendered to Him.
Listen to the wonderful promises of God’s presence He gives His own.
“My presence shall go with thee and I will give Thee rest.” Exodus 33:14
“Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.” James 4:8
Read the 139th Psalm, filled with promises of God’s presence throughout our lives.
WE HAVE HIS PROMISE OF HIS PROVISION FOR EVERY NEED.
Finances Phil. 4:19
Strength for each day Dt. 33:25, Isa. 40:28-31
Fullness of joy Ps. 16:11
Protection Ps. 91
Grace for every trial II Cor. 12:9
Wisdom for decisions James 1:5
We have the assurance that God is using every change, every disappointment, every challenge and every difficulty to conform us to His image and make us more useful to Him.
God is more concerned about developing our character than in our service
we offer to Him. Our service is no substitute for character.
His will for us is our sanctification. I Thessalonians 4:3 Before God could use Israel, they needed to be sanctified or set apart for His purpose. Before He can use you or me, we must surrender our own wills to Him and let Him mold us as He sees fit.
I remind you of what God wants to do through us. As He reminded Israel in Joshua 3:4b-5 “You have not passed this way before.” so He reminds us. As He challenged Israel, “Sanctify yourself” That is, set yourself apart for God’s use, confessing your sins and being right with Him, “For tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”
What a great promise for us as we face this new year before us!
Christmas is that wonderful time of the year filled with warm traditions, special foods, excited children and pleasant memories. It all merges into something we call the “Christmas spirit”.
If Christmas is a happy time, why is it that so many people are depressed and miserable at this time of the year? Why do so many experience discouragement, fatigue, anxiety and unhappiness? Why do suicide rates jump sharply during this season? Why do so many need psychiatric care?
Even Christians who know the real meaning of Christmas are not immune to problems during the Christmas season. They fall into two categories:
1. Stress and 2. Loneliness
Note, those same two problems in the Christmas story.
Nearly all of us are familiar with pressures and the stress it brings during this season of the year: shopping deadlines, intense traffic, letters and cards to write, homes to decorate, extra church activities.
Added to that, the frustrations of pressures at work, political unrest and a depressed economy.
JOSEPH AND MARY EXPERIENCED STRESS
In that first century, the Jews experienced the stress of Roman oppression with their heavy taxation.
Mary, no doubt, was in her late teens when she was confronted with an angelic announcement that totally changed her life. A virgin, espoused to Joseph, she was looking forward to the consummation of her marriage to him. Suddenly the angel Gabriel appeared to her and made an astounding announcement that would change her life. You can read it in Luke 1:26-38.
He explained to her that God wanted to use her to become the mother of Jesus. God’s Holy Spirit would supernaturally inseminate her, enabling her to bear God’s Son in a totally human body. The whole idea was mind-boggling! She would bear Jesus, the God of creation, in a totally human, yet sinless body.
In total submission to God, she answered, “Be it unto me according to thy Word.” You can read more about this in my article Virgin Birth, which you will find under the category JESUS. Can you imagine her stress? How was she going to explain this to her beloved Joseph and to all her family and friends?
Several months later as her pregnancy became obvious, Joseph’s heart was broken. His beloved Mary was pregnant. Can you imagine his stress? What should he do about this? Have her stoned? No, he loved her too much for that. He would as privately as possible dissolve the marriage and try to remove her from his life.
While he was considering these options, the same angel Gabriel who had appeared to Mary a few months earlier now appeared to him. with an explanation of what had happened. You can read about that in Matthew 1:18-25 This was, no doubt, stressful to him at first. But he, as Mary, surrendered to God’s amazing plan for their lives.
Eight months passed and in the ninth month, Mary and Joseph began their sixty mile journey from Nazereth to Bethlehem on foot or perhaps riding a donkey. Either way it would probably be over a week’s journey and very difficult for Mary, heavy with child.
Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor. You remember in Micah 5:2 the prophet declared by inspiration of God that the Saviour would be born in Bethlehem. God would not allow Mary to go into labor until she was in the right town at the right time.
Crowded with people coming to register for the Roman taxation, Joseph could find no room for his beloved Mary, to deliver her baby. Finally he found a place in a cave where cattle and sheep were bedded down for the night. There, in the straw, Mary had her little Lamb, the Lamb of God who would about thirty years later, willingly go to the cross and shed His life’s blood for the sins of the world. There she made a bed for the baby in a manger where animals come to feed.
Note that the stress placed on Mary and Joseph was not of their own making. Much of the stress we face is not of our making. It just comes upon us as a part of life.
Sometimes, though, through our own ignorance, foolishness and selfishness we bring unnecessary stress on ourselves by procrastinating concerning our responsibilities, such as students failing to do their homework, or wives failing to do their housework or failing to pay our bills on time, or getting in debt over our heads.
By insisting on having our own way or making foolish decisions, God usually allows us to experience the painful, stressful consequences of those decisions in order to teach us life’s important lessons.
How did Joseph and Mary handle their pressures? Mary submitted herself to God and Joseph trusted God.
The question is, how should we handle our stressful situations? Read Isaiah 54:11-17, Romans 8:28 and I Peter 5:7 to learn of the humble, submissive attitude we must have to face anything the Lord allows us to experience.
Another source of stress and anxiety is LONLINESS. It has been a problem through human history.
A century ago most American lived in rural areas and small towns. Though people lived a mile or two from each other, there was community closeness. Everyone knew and helped their neighbors when in need.
As people moved from rural areas into the big cities and metropolitan areas, they lost that neighborliness and closeness. Walled up in their crowded apartments and row houses, people became detached and lonely.
In this modern technological age surrounded by our cell phones and lap tops, we’re more lonely than ever, as we reach out to one another in an impersonal way with emails and Face Book and My Space, etc. In this age our cyberspace friends come and go with the click of a mouse and we remain lonely.
CHURCH, A LONELY PLACE TO BE
For many, going to church is one of the loneliest experiences of life. Why is that?
In most churches, regardless of size, there is an In-group, made up mostly of middle class married couples and families. They attend most of the services and do most of the work. They are, for the most part, emotionally and financially stable.
But scattered through these congregations are many lonely people. Some have physical and emotional problems. These are often misunderstood people. We often feel uncomfortable in their presence and seldom go out of our way to get to know them. Perhaps we would just as soon they leave and go and bless some other church.
Some of these new people are newcomers to town with no family or friends. Some are single, widowed or divorced. Some are from foreign countries and difficult to understand. Some are young college students or service men and women, looking for friendship and acceptance.
Some are independent thinkers and do not fit our molds for “normal”. Some wear rings in the weirdest of places, some come with purple or green hair. Some are dressed outlandishly and immodestly. What do we do? Give them the cold shoulder and hope they never return?
I would hope not. These are people for whom Jesus died. We are called to love and accept and befriend them as they are and share our lives with them as well as the Gospel of Christ.
Certainly we preachers are called to give them the truth of God’s Word, but our love for them makes the truth more palatable.
TO YOU WHO FEEL LONELY AND UNACCEPTED
Remember, Jesus, who lived in a human body and was as human as you are, but sinless, totally understands your pressures, your loneliness and your grief. He’s been where you are. Read Luke 9:58 and Hebrews 4:14-16.
If you lack salvation read John 5:24 and receive Jesus by faith
If you are a wayward Christian. burdened down with unconfessed sin which is destroying you; confess it to God alone and receive His forgiveness today and discover the joy of a clean heart and a clean conscience. Forgiveness and cleansing are promised in I John 1:9.
If you have few or no friends, open yourself up to the overtures of friendship from the church family. We want to love and accept you, but you cause us to step back when you rebuff that friendship.
If you are feeling sorry for yourself, look to Jesus. Let me read to you a picture of Jesus in Isaiah 53:1-3 from The Message, a modern paraphrase of the Bible in modern English by Eugene H. Peterson.
“Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?
The servant grew up before God- a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered and knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried-
Our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
That God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him.
That ripped and tore and crushed him— our sins!”
In Matthew 1:15-23 God’s angel spoke to Joseph concerning Mary, his espoused wife, concerning the conception of the baby in Mary’s womb. The virgin birth of Jesus, as well as His name had been prophesied 700 years earlier by the prophet in Isaiah 7:14. There we read that the baby’s name would be Immanuel.
In the Matthew 1 account that virgin birth of Jesus was explained to Joseph, who would naturally be concerned about it. In that account the name Immanuel is confirmed, but this time the spelling is with a capital E. The main thing about this baby’s name is that it means “God with us.” In verse 25 of Matthew 1 we learn that Joseph called the baby’s name, Jesus. To see the connection of the name Jesus with that of Emmanuel, read the message, under this CHRISTMAS category, “Who is the Christmas Child?”
Truly Jesus is “God with us”. Those of us who have received Him as Saviour and Lord, know His presence in our lives very intimately. We have no question as to who Jesus is. He is not only our Saviour and Lord, but He is our very life. He is more real and precious to us than anyone or anything on this earth.
JESUS IS GOD OUR CREATOR.
God was with us human beings long before He was born as the baby Jesus in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. This same Jesus who was born in a manger and who died on a cross for our sins, is God the Creator of the heavens and the earth. This creation, a mass of atoms, is held together by Christ Himself, according to Colossians 1:13-17.
Preaching Christ in Athens as recorded in Acts 17:28-31, The Apostle Paul announces that “in Him we live and move and have our being.” The natural man now, as then, blindly seeks after his own idea of God, but ignores and rebels vociferously against the God of the Bible, “though He is not far from any of us.”
Even as Jesus ministered to the people, performing miracles in their presence; they blindly rejected Him as God incarnate. It’s true that in a personal way, Jesus is not with the unbeliever; although He keeps unbelievers alive by His power.
SIN SEPARATES US FROM GOD.
Note in Isaiah 59:1-2 that our sins have separated God from us. Isaiah 53:1-6 teaches us that our sins have separated us from God. Though the atoms of the unbeliever’s body are held together by the power of God, the unbeliever has no sense of God’s presence. He is a stranger and outcast to God. The only way a sinner and God can be in fellowship is for the sin problem to be settled first. God has settled the sin problem by coming to this earth as the man Jesus and dying on a cross, paying the full penalty that we deserved to pay for our sins.
Those who receive Christ as Saviour are instantly brought into fellowship with God. Those who reject the Saviour are banished from His presence now and through eternity. The unbeliever’s problem is not an intellectual one; it is a moral problem.
The natural man rejects Jesus and wants nothing to do with Him. The hatred is emotional and irrational. I’ve never seen nor heard a rational man get angry and upset about Santa Claus or the Easter bunny, which they know is pure fiction. Yet even in the natural man’s denial of Christ, he is consumed with irrational hatred towards Him and towards those who preach the need to receive and trust Him as Saviour.
Ultimately it took the shedding of Jesus’ blood on Calvary’s cross and His bodily resurrection from the tomb to save us. We must admit our need of Him as sinners and trust His sacrifice for our sins. John 1:11-13 explains it as receiving Christ as Saviour.
The repentant thief on the cross did so and was with Christ in Heaven that day. The Roman centurion who directed the crucifixion of Christ, also received Jesus as God. and I believe, Saviour.
What sent the shepherds back to their sheep in the field that first Christmas night? They recognized that baby in the manger as the Son of God, their Creator and Saviour.
GOD CREATED US TO BE WITH HIM AND ENJOY HIM FOREVER.
When God created the universe and mankind, He did it for His pleasure. Read Revelation 4:11, Psalm 147:10-11, Psalm 149:4
God gets no pleasure In the death and the punishment of the wicked in Hell. Read the question in Ezekiel 18:23 The implied answer is “Of course not!” Rather, it is God’s pleasure to give us the Kingdom. Luke 12:29-32. God saved us for His pleasure, according to Ephesians 1.
FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD
Adam and Eve were created to walk daily with God in the Garden of Eden. Sin broke that fellowship and Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves from God. God found them and provided a blood sacrifice to cover their sins temporarily. Eventually, Jesus the Lamb of God, was the perfect and final sacrifice for sin. Thos who receive Him are saved. Those who reject Him are lost.
Christians are saved to enjoy constant fellowship with God. However, sin hinders that fellowship. Only as we confess our sins to God, does He forgive us and restore us to fellowship. That’s the messages of I John 1.
In our perfect, sinless state in Heaven. we will live in constant fellowship with God. Satan will be in hell and unable to tempt us. We will have glorified bodies, incapable of sin. We will enjoy total intimacy with God. That was the Psalmist’s desire in Psalm 42:1-2. That was Paul’s and is our desire as Christians. Philippians 3:10. That will be our experience throughout eternity. Revelation 21:3.
IMAGINE! FOREVER IN HIS PRESENCE! WHAT WILL THAT MEAN?
In Heaven we shall see Him.
We can’t see Him now in these physical bodies. John 1:18, I Peter 1:8
At best, we see Him darkly now through His Word. I Corinthians 13:12
He is presently unapproachable now in His glory. I Timothy 6:16
Moses saw a glimpse of His glory. Exodus 33:12-13
The pure in heart will one day see Him. Matthew 5:8
One day we shall be like Him. We are presently being made ready to live in His sight through the process of sanctification. I John 3:1-3, Psalm 17:1,15 Even now, through the process of sanctification we are being gradually changed from one degree of glory to another as we spend time in His presence in His Word and in prayer. II Corinthians 3:18
In Heaven we shall adore and worship Him perfectly. That adoration and worship ought to be going on now constantly 24/7/365,
The Philippian Christians were faced with two dangers: two dangers that all Christians down through the ages have faced.
1. Paul warned them repeatedly of the Judaizers who taught that works must be added to faith in order to be saved. Phil. 3:2-3
2. He also warned them of the Libertines in Phil. 3:18-19 who taught that how they lived their lives after they were saved was not important. They taught the people that they were free to live as they please, since they were saved by grace through faith and not by works.
These two false, sinful extremes have plagued the Church these past 2000 years.
WHAT ARE YOUR VALUES?
The godly Christian is focused on God and eternal values.
The worldling, carnal Christian is focused on the cosmos, the fleeting values of this world system. His purpose in life is to squeeze from it all the fun and satisfaction it has to offer and have all his desires and needs met. He believes that when his desires and perceived needs are met, then he will be satisfied and happy. Deceived by Satan and living in a euphoric dream world, eventually he learns that nothing really satisfies. When it comes time to die, he comes to the realization with Solomon, that it was all vanity and worthless.
THE MESSAGE OF SELF WORTH
False teachers misuse the Bible to teach that our goal in life to be self- fulfilled and self-satisfied. Their gospel is the message of self worth, the good news of being significant and prosperous.
Instead of preaching the message of the crucified life, as found in Romans 6 and Galatians 2:20 and 6:14 and the mortification of the flesh nature, as taught in Colossians 3:1-5; they preach the message of the need to have a good self-image and a high opinion of one’s self-worth,
No, the ultimate goal is not self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment. The ultimate goal is that Christ be satisfied with me, that my life be centered in Christ, as Paul testified in Philippians 1:21. “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE IS MORE THAN JUSTIFICATION
Some Christians get so focused on the wonderful truth of justification, that we are saved by grace alone and not by our works that they carry their liberty in Christ to a sinful extreme. They fall into the error of libertinism. They rightfully rejoice in Christ’s righteousness which makes them fit for Heaven. They rightfully rejoice in their freedom in Christ; but how they live their lives is their business and no one else’s. This is the careless, sinful attitude that since our spirit is saved and since we can’t lose our salvation, it doesn’t matter how we live. We can give in to our fleshly desires and live as we please because God sees only Christ’s righteousness when He looks at us.
They falsely brand preachers who preach holy living as legalists.
But the Christian life is more than simply our standing in Christ. It involves the pursuit of godliness, the pursuit of Christ-likeness. That’s the doctrine of sanctification, a very unpopular message with most Christians; and yet it is the only path to true self-fulfillment.
CHRISTIANS ARE SAINTS
As a king’s son is born a prince, so we are born again as saints; but as a young prince knows very little about being kingly, so we know very little of saintliness. It takes time in God’s Word to become saintly, just as it takes time and training for a prince to become kingly.
I John 2:6 challenges that if we are Christians, we are to learn to walk as Christ walked.
Paul travailed for young believers in Christ as he wrote in Galatians 4:19 that Christ would be formed in them.
Paul wrote in Romans 8:29 that our calling as Christian is to become conformed to the image of Christ. That’s perfection! We will never attain it in this life. If we think we have attained it, I John 1:8-10 informs us that we are deceiving ourselves and the Truth is not in us and we are calling God a liar. Nevertheless, though we will never attain it until we are in Heaven, it is to be our life-long goal to become more like Jesus.
Of course, only a genuine Christian can even begin that journey, for until we have come to the end of ourselves and put our trust in Christ; the Holy Spirit does not yet live in us. Only as He lives within us and we are surrendered to His leading, can we even begin that journey of sanctification.
SO HOW DO WE ATTAIN CHRIST-LIKENESS?
1.Through faith in Christ’s blood sacrifice on the cross, God not only frees us from the guilt and penalty of sin; but He imputes to our account the very righteousness of Jesus. But God has more for us beyond judicial righteousness. He wants to impart to us His practical righteousness that changes the way we think, the values we hold and the way we live.
2. We attain Christ-likeness by hungering and thirsting after His righteousness and feeding on His Word, the Bible, as Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:6
3. We attain that righteousness by submitting ourselves to the control of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, as Ephesians 5:18-21 teaches us.
As Christians, we are complete in Christ, Colossians 2:10 says. That is, we have all that is necessary to live the victorious Christian life.
Only in Christ can we as Christians find our self worth and purpose in life. All else is vanity and results in a wasted life, Solomon concluded in Ecclesiastes.
PRACTICALLY, HOW CAN WE ATTAIN CHRIST-LIKENESS?
I could tell you to follow the example of Jesus, but that seems so unattainable, After all, Jesus is God, and He is sinless. How can we possible follow His example? A more practical way of growing in godliness is to find someone who is living a godly life. Hopefully your parents or your pastor, or some other person who evidences Christian virtue.
That’s why Paul repeatedly challenged people to follow his example. Though imperfect, as he admitted in Philippians 3; yet he lived the Christian life with integrity. So it is safe to follow the example of another Christian just so long as they are living faithfully for Christ. Test your mentor by the plumb line of the Bible and follow him as long as he is true to the Word of God.
That is what church leadership is all about. Pastors, elder and deacons are not to boss you and command you, but we are to be examples of the believer to young Christians so they can safely follow our examples.
Understand that when we teach you to follow godly mentors, we are not teaching you to try to mimic their personalities. Christian are not to be clones of their pastor or other Christian leaders. How silly that would be. Be yourself. Express your own personality, but make sure it is under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Make sure that your walk is consistent with your talk, that your walk is integrated with your talk; that’s integrity!
What Biblical warnings are given to Christians concerning this carnal attitude?
Read these verses carefully. They show us that Christ is concerned about more than our justification.
Romans 16:17-18 Follow godly preachers. Their lives and examples are more important than their ability to communicate in the pulpit.
Galatians 5:13-26 Verse 13 is perhaps the most important passage in the Bible on the issue of libertinism.
Philippians 3:17-19 Faithful pastors, teachers, Mothers and Dads will not hesitate to encourage their children to follow their example. SHAME on the father who commands his children, “Do what I say. Don’t do as I do!” For example, watching R and X rated moves while at the same time forbidding your children to do so, or perhaps allowing your children to watch them with you.
I Timothy 6:3-6 Another solemn warning to avoid and flee from hypocritical pastors and teachers.
James 4:4 Stern language to Christians who love the world’s life-style, as exemplified in movies and television and in night clubs; more than Biblical preaching and godly Christian fellowship.
II Peter 2 Here Peter blasts selfish, carnal preachers who lead their congregations into sin through their vile sinful examples.
I John 2:15-17 Verses that you won’t hear preached in many churches today.
Jude 3-4 A warning to beware of preachers who in the name of Christian freedom, give their congregations license to sin.
WORK OUT YOUR SALVATION!
Rejoice in the wonderful salvation you received by the grace of God apart from any works of your own. You and I don’t add to our salvation by our works, but we work it out as Paul taught in Philippians 2:12-13, so that others can see it operating in our lives and can be drawn to our Saviour and God can be glorified.
Jesus summarizes it all in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:16. Read this, memorize it, meditate on it and let it soak into your heart and mind. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.
Trouble is the lot of each of us. No one escapes it. When I look at a tiny, newborn baby, it is with a mixture of joy and sadness. I share the joy of the parents in the birth of their baby, but I also am saddened when I think of the life of trouble facing the baby.
Eliphaz, one of Job’s miserable “comforters” tried to comfort Job in Job 5:7 by making him face the fact that trouble is just as certain for all of us as sparks fly up from a fire. Trouble is not just the lot of the unsaved, but we Christians have been warned by Christ Himself that “in the world we shall face tribulation.” At the same time, Jesus encourages us, ” but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 In John 14:1-3 Jesus encourages with these words, “Let not your heart be troubled.” In that same passage He reminds us that Heaven awaits us at the end of this life on earth.
Understand, dear Christian Friend, the Christian life is not the absence of trouble; rather, it is the presence of God in the midst of many trials and tribulations. It is the comfort of our loving Father in the midst of the trials.
In our study of Luke 22 we’ve seen that Jesus has just observed the last Passover with His disciples in an upper room and has instituted the first Lord’s Supper which we Christians observe regularly.
Though the evening started out to be a quiet, peaceful time of last minute reflection and teaching with His disciples, the evening was marred by increasing trouble.
Would you note that God always triumphs in the midst of trouble? From the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, God announces the course of history for mankind and in spite of the trouble that Satan causes; Christ is triumphant to the end. God is always triumphant in trouble and because He lives in us believers by His Holy Spirit, we also can live triumphantly in all our troubles.
Let’s look at the trouble Jesus faced that evening before His crucifixion the next day.
TROUBLE FROM JUDAS
First, there was Judas who betrayed Jesus. The plan to betray Jesus had been hatched with the chief priests and scribes a little earlier. Judas had consented to betray Jesus in the darkness of night for 30 pieces of silver. Luke 22:21-22 informs us that this betrayal took place as pre-determined by God. Yes, ever detail of Jesus’ betrayal, trial and crucifixion progressed like clock-work according to the eternal plan of God. Nevertheless, God’s predestination does not void human responsibility. Those who took part in this nefarious plot were simply carrying out God’s eternal plan for our salvation. But all of them are still held accountable for their sin.
Remember the truth in Psalm 76:10 when you are faced with the wrath of others or with any trouble. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath Thou shalt restrain.” What a comfort that is to us. God never wastes the wrath of man. He always uses it for His glory and restrains the rest. Though we can’t always understand that, we accept it by faith that our God is a good God and limits the evil of men towards us to that which brings Him ultimate glory.
Judas is unmoved. He has no conviction of sin, His conscience is as hard as nails. He is cursed of God and bears the full responsibility of his sins.
Note the timing of his departure from Jesus and His disciples. It is after the supper. It is after Jesus has washed his feet along with the other disciples. Jesus has identified this traitor sitting next to him. John sits on one side of Jesus and Judas on the other side. Jesus dips the sop (a piece of bread in the wine) and hands it to Judas as a token of true friendship. Judas receives it and then gets up and walks out of the room, out from the presence of Jesus and His eleven other disciples. The Bible forebodingly announces that as Judas walked out of that room, “It was night!” It was not just dark outside. Judas walked out into eternal night and damnation.
It was after Judas had left the group that Jesus began to teach the intimate truths of being a disciple of Christ as recorded in John 13-17, Judas missed out on all of this. These truths can only be comprehended and appreciated by those who truly belong to Christ through faith in His blood sacrifice.
TROUBLE FROM THE REST OF HIS DISCIPLES
When Jesus announced that someone from the group would betray Him, each of them were doubtful of their own faithfulness to Him. They began asking the question of themselves, “Is it I?” That is a good attitude for us to have as we think of our own weakness and faithlessness. It was an attitude of genuine humility. But it wasn’t long before this humility had turned to pride and selfishness as they began arguing among themselves as to which of them was the greatest. Such pride and insensitivity to be quarreling at a time like this when their Friend and Saviour was preparing to suffer unspeakable torment and shame hanging on a cross in a few more hours!
It wasn’t the first time they argued like this. They had done it on several previous occasions. See Mark 9:33-37 and Luke 9:46-48
The situation was not looking good for Jesus. He had spent three years pouring His life and teachings into His disciples and here they were arguing and fussing about who was the greatest just hours before His death. What would become of the Church under the leadership of these seemingly carnal and weak disciples? It was looking hopeless. But Christ was not discouraged. Isaiah 42:1-4 prophesies of the gentleness and assurance of Jesus as He works with His own and eventually brings this world under His rule in the Kingdom Age. Jesus knew that shortly after His death and resurrection He would empower His disciples with His Holy Spirit and they would do exploits for Him.
Note Jesus’ response to His disciples arguing over who was the greatest.
He reminds them in Luke 22:25 that the world operates differently from Christians. The world is into power-struggles and forcefully imposing their wills on others. Jesus reminds them in verse 26 and in Matthew 20:26-27 that we operate with servant attitudes. Jesus had earlier in the evening illustrated this servant attitude by washing each of His disciple’s feet. Peter later wrote of this servant attitude as being essential for pastors, elders and other church leaders. Read about this in I Peter 5:2-3.
TROUBLE FROM PETER
Talking about Peter, that reminds me of the third problem Jesus had and that was with the devil as he sifted Peter and the rest of Jesus’ disciples; but Peter especially. Speaking to Peter in Luke 22:3`-32 Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has desired, (a better translation would be, demanded) to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith fail not: and when you are converted or turned around, strengthen your brothers.” Note that when Jesus said, I have prayed for you, the you is plural. He was praying for all His disciples that they would have courage in the coming sifting of Satan.
Note also that whenever Satan touches or attempts to harm one of God’s children, he always has to get permission from God. He had to get permission before he touched Job and again we see him getting permission from God to sift Peter. You can be sure that he also has to gain permission from God to sift you if you are a Christian.
Never forget that God is always FOR you; never against you. Read Romans 8:31-39 and be encouraged. Listen to Him pray for you in John 17:6-15. Listen to Jude’s benediction in Jude 24-25.
Peter is well known for his denial of Christ. Thank God Jesus prayed for him in advance. If you belong to Christ through faith in His shed blood for your sins, thank God Christ will keep you from falling also and present you faultless before God through His righteousness imputed to you.
Thank God that though Jesus faced much trouble, He came through triumphantly and because He came through triumphantly, He will also bring you through whatever test He allows in your life. Claim the promise in II Corinthians 2:14. “Now thanks be unto God who ALWAYS causes us to triumph in Christ, and make manifest the savor or perfume of Christ” As others smell Christ on your personality, if they are fellow Christians, they are blessed. If they are unconverted, they sense the conviction that they are lost and need a Saviour. Be there for them, brother or sister in Christ. Don’t fear persecution or trouble. God is getting ready to bless you and make you a greater blessing to others. Look what He did for Peter in Acts.
Read I & II Peter and see what God did through Peter, that former bungling, braggadocios, cowardly denier of Christ.